Do your knives go blade up or down in the dishwasher? The argument is that up makes the blade cleaner, but you run the risk of cutting your hand, down and the blade may not get clean, but it’s safer. I’m a blade down person. It’s mostly because I’m klutzy and who needs one more thing to think about? My roommate, however, is a blade up person. Yes, there have been arguments.
I got a little petty and googled the best way to load the dishwasher and, to my surprise, not only did an extensive list of articles about how to properly load a dishwasher come up, but so did studies about how to split chores fairly. They piqued my interest, so I read a few. Okay I wanted to prove my roommate wrong, but that just means I read them more carefully. I found that some of the only consistent things between studies is that women are more dissatisfied than men and many couples underestimate how much time their spouse spends doing housework. This says nothing about who did more, or even what kinds of work was being split, simply that at least one of them was dissatisfied and each thought they were doing equal or more than their partner–until a social scientist put time-cards in their hands, that is.
While the studies were varied and interesting (I’ll link a few at the bottom), they brought a dissatisfaction to light. Some studies argued that the dissatisfaction is the result of gender disparity, and perhaps it is, but the frustration was often present in both genders no matter how the chores were originally split. So, I think there’s something more subtle happening here: human’s innate selfishness.
We do not give easily. And often, when we do give, it is not fully. The simple act of splitting up chores gives us an opportunity to take the temperature of our attitudes. Are we trying to help our partner, or get out of as much work as possible? Several different studies split up chores in several different ways. Some said one should cook, the other clean up. Others said one should drive the kids, the other clean the bathrooms. But I’ll bet, unless there truly was a huge disparity, any greater satisfaction with the splitting of chores was from a researcher telling the couple it was fair and their choice to believe him.
When reading those studies, I realized that very few of my relationships are characterized by giving and part of that comes from who I have chosen to live life with. To be able to give in a relationship, one needs to be able to support the ones they’re giving to. So, if you’re not working towards the same things, how can you give fully? This can be especially difficult in romantic relationships because, as C.S. Lewis put it in The Four Loves, romantic partners spend their time looking at each other, while friends spend their time looking at something else together. In other words, friends give their time and energy to each other easily because they’re pursuing their own goals with a companion while romantic partners must give up some of their own interests for the purpose of pursuing each other. This could be a very telling way to decide if someone is a good romantic partner; can you give your time, energy, money, or anything else to their endeavors? If not, you shouldn’t be with them.
Giving can also be a litmus test for the health of a relationship. Is one person always and obviously giving much more of their time, energy, or resources? Every couple will go through seasons where one will have to support the other, but if you’re constantly giving or constantly taking, it may be time to sit down and evaluate where the relationship is headed.
In the long term, I’m sure my roommate and I will come to an agreement about how to properly load the dishwasher. That, or one of us will move out. But in order to preserve our friendship through these trying times, I think I might just take over dish duty.